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article imageScientists enter into battle with Greenpeace over GM food

By Tim Sandle     Jul 14, 2016 in Environment
Few issues spark as much intensity as genetically modified foods and both sides wheel out scientists to give opinions on the safety (or otherwise) of genetically modified produce. In a new move, a consortium of scientists has gone on the offensive.
In an open letter, around one third of living Nobel laureates (110 scientists) have signed a statement saying that Greenpeace has misrepresented the risks and benefits of genetically modified crops. Here, the scientists state that genetically modified crops are safe for human consumption and have the potential to feed the world and improve human health.
The letter demands that the environmental pressure group Greenpeace stop its campaign against GM crops. Here the letter runs: “There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption.”
Genetically modified crops are plants used in agriculture where the DNA has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. Generally, this process is designed to introduce a new trait to the plant. This might be to make the plant more resistance to pests or diseases; to allow the plant to be environmentally more robust; or to improve the nutrient profile of the crop. With the latter, potatoes created to have a higher starch content is an example.
In the statement, the scientists, who include James Watson (of the DNA discovery fame), use the example of Golden Rice as a type of genetically modified crop that carries significant potential to improve health and save lives in the developing world. The rice was patented during 1990s. It contains an inserted gene designed to increase vitamin A-rich beta-carotene levels.
However, in conversation with The Guardian, Greenpeace has countered the letter and has refused to stop its anti-GM campaign.
Speaking for the environmental body, Wilhelmina Pelegrina said: “Accusations that anyone is blocking genetically engineered ’Golden’ rice are false.” However, she went on to say that large corporations were using the strain “to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops,” adding that, “life is not an industrial commodity."
In addition, The Conversation website notes that Greenpeace argues there are cheaper and better alternatives to Golden Rice. The campaign body further claims that developers “are downplaying the risk that GM rice will contaminate traditional and organic rice crops.” One concern is the likelihood of transgenes escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives.
The general opinion on Twitter is in favor of Greenpeace. For instance, V.A. SHIVA (@va_shiva) tweeted: "The letter by the Nobel winners is merely an opinion, and not an authoritative study to go by." However, there are some who are in favor, such as financial journalist Sunil Jain (@thesuniljain), who indicated: "Seems GM food is not harmful after all Nobel laureates endorse it". And there are some in the middle, such as Bernie Sanders supporter #OnlySanders つ ◕_◕ つ (@ThankYouBernie) said: "Conflicting Values in the GM Food Crop Debate."
More about gm food, Greenpeace, Science, Crops, Food
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